8 Reasons Caution is Needed To Chat With Strangers Online

Updated January 24, 2023by ReGain Editorial Team

Though the first online chat options came about in the 1970s, the first chatrooms that resemble the version of online chat we know today first popped up in the 1980s. Since that time, online web chat options that allow us to talk to strangers and the people we already know have grown substantially. Despite the evolution of these platforms, one thing is for sure; it’s still crucial to utilize caution when talking to people on the internet. It is like the appeal of an anonymous chat room, which you need to be cautious too.

Wondering Why You Should Be Cautious When Chatting With Strangers Online?

Most of us, especially those who grew up using the internet or started using it regularly to talk to others as an adult, have a friend that we’ve met online. However, you must be cautious in talking to strangers on the Internet. With this, you must consider some tips to help you talk to strangers to keep you safe.   Research indicates that 76% of United States residents who were surveyed to provide related to online friendships released by Skout, an online platform and app, have an online friend with whom they haven’t met in real life. Friendship is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately, there are times when things go sour to say the least. Here are eight reasons that you must be cautious when chatting with strangers online or having an anonymous chat.

Identity Theft Exists

The internet is a playground for people who want to commit identity theft and financial fraud. They can pose as old friends, distant family, or simply a person in need without much effort. This is an easy way to make kind-hearted people who want to help others, into victims.

This includes your full name, age, address, and any banking or credit card information. Never talk about where you work or go to school, and do not offer up any information that might suggest how much money you make.

Do not respond to unsolicited emails or messages from people asking for financial help. Popular internet scams include the "Nigerian Scam" and various fake accounts posing as disaster relief services. 

As a general rule, avoid anyone asking for money, anyone who is promising you will make money quickly, and anyone who reaches out to you with an unexpected check or job offer. It is better to be safe than risk your financial stability. Product scams are another potential threat. 

Age Is Just A Number

Scams and catfishing are so successful online because you can never really be sure who is who in the digital world. This is especially dangerous in the case of adults who pursue relationships with someone underage. Most of the time, a predator knows exactly what they are doing. They will either pose as a child who wants a romantic relationship with a peer or simply a friendly adult who wishes to gain a child's trust. Although no physical contact occurs in these cases, the relationship can still cross into illegal territory quickly. Predators often try to use their new-found influence to have illicit conversations or get inappropriate pictures of minors. Child pornography is illegal, and it is a very real threat in the online world.

If you’re underage or have a minor child, be aware of grooming tactics that an online predator might use to get close to your child. A predator might tell a child that they’re “mature for their age,” and since many children or teens take this as a compliment, they may believe it and enter a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with a predator that could harm them. A predator might also give a child a gift or opportunity to draw them in. One current example of this is the Dahvie Vanity case, which is now under investigation by the FBI. Dahvie Vanity, legally Jesus David Torres, preyed on dozens (if not hundreds) of children under the age of 18 by abusing his fame as a musician. To draw children in, he gave them band merchandise, and opportunities to write songs or get featured in music videos, and invited them onto his tour bus, in his home, or on various outings.  

Instances such as the Dahvie Vanity case serve as an example of someone in a position of power and control using it to target children. It’s essential to talk with your child about grooming behaviors and online safety precautions in case they encounter a predator online; including people who are public figures or who claim to be public figures. Additionally, many parents let their children know that if they’re ever in danger or if they ever enter a situation where they feel uncomfortable for any reason, they can call you or another trusted adult or family to pick them up without any repercussions. That way, a child will know they can reach out to you and will not hold back from the fear of getting in trouble. Let your child know that their life is by far the most important thing and that they will not be punished for speaking up.

You Become A Target

Most social media profiles include personal pictures, and information about birthdays, places of work, and hometowns. 

If you post that you are on vacation, a stranger can tell when your home is vacant. This opens you up to a possible break-in. If you are constantly checking into places around your city, they will know exactly where to find you if they want to. The more you post on social media, the more a stranger can learn about you. They can use all the information provided by you to stalk you or make you the victim of a crime. Be aware that, in addition to targeting you, a stranger may get close to you to target someone you know, including your children. Be careful when posting public photos of your children online, as well as their full names. You never know what hands the information could fall into.

Online Bullying 

Online bullying or cyberbullying is a possibility for anyone who logs onto social media platforms, chatrooms, apps, or forums. A hate comment here and there is one thing, but pervasive harassment is another. Online bullying, trolling, and harassment can manifest in a variety of different ways. They may post it on a public forum and ask people to harass you if they choose, or they may prank call you themselves. Always keep information such as your phone number and address safe. If this happens to you, it’s not your fault; it’s the sole fault of the bully. Even if you’re using a platform like Snapchat where messages and photos seemingly disappear, be mindful of the fact that a person could screenshot it. Blackmail is a crime, so if someone does attempt to blackmail you, know that you can take legal action. Online bullying might also show up in the form of rumors, slander, or threats, all of which may require legal action as well. 

You Might Get Your Content Stolen

If you’re an artist of any kind, whether that’s a visual artist, blogger, fashion designer, musician, or even someone who writes recipes, you’ve likely faced concerns about stolen content. Meeting a catfish isn’t the only thing that you have to worry about when you talk to others online. You also have to worry about your photos being stolen for someone to use to catfish someone else. People steal other people’s tweets, photos of themselves or their kids, creative ideas, and quotes. Strangers might profit off of your hard work, or they might upload your photos to a dating website and pretend to be you. If you find out that someone’s using your content as their own, take the necessary steps to get the content taken down. On a dating website or a social media website such as Facebook, this might mean writing to the site directly to let them know that the profile is fake. When it comes to art, it might mean taking legal action – especially if the person is non-responsive when confronted by other means. 

Crowdfunding Scams

Another highly significant reason that it’s vital to use caution when talking to strangers online is that, even if they are who they say they are, they might not have the intentions they say they do. Most of us are familiar with the more obvious catfishing schemes presented above, but there are also people who scam others without hiding their true identity. With the rise of platforms like GoFundMe, individuals have the crucial ability to reach out for help from their communities when they need it. While most people on these platforms are telling the truth, some abuse the generosity of strangers online. A clever scammer may develop a relationship with their audience or with specific individuals before creating a fake crowdfunding opportunity. If your intuition screams that something’s wrong with a crowd funder’s ask for help, you’re probably right. Go with your gut.

Fake Job Postings 

Many people are desperate for work nowadays, so it makes sense that more and more fake job postings are popping up online. While these postings are often for online work, they aren’t always. Additionally, you may be asked to complete work for free and be let go (or ghosted) before you receive paid work. 

Be aware of any employment opportunity that asks you to shell out a good deal of money or time before you get paid. Multi-level marketing schemes, also known as pyramid schemes, are another common way that people in need of work are taken advantage of. If someone approaches you with a work opportunity that seems too good to be true, don’t take what they’re saying at face value. Often, if a company is a scam, it will be listed as such on an online scam alert website. 

Hackers

Just as scams aren’t always randomized, hackers aren’t always random. A hacker might talk to you and get to know you before they target you.  Additionally, if you’ve ever been negatively affected by a stranger online, know that it isn’t your fault. Being the target of hackers, scammers, or predators online can be an incredibly traumatic experience. It can affect you emotionally, financially, and even physically in a case where someone stalks, harms, or harasses you in person after meeting online. If you’re a victim of any of the eight items in this list, know that you can heal and that you don’t deserve what you or your family went through.

Wondering Why You Should Be Cautious When Chatting With Strangers Online?

Conclusion

Not everything about chatting with strangers online is bad. Good relationships can come from friendships that start online. But with the chat risks involved, it is important to consider if you can meet your social needs in another way.  Most people look to the internet for companionship because they find it easier or more convenient to connect with others there than they do in real life. If you are struggling to form friendships, reach out to a licensed counselor. They can help you reach your goals of creating lasting bonds without the risks that come with finding friends online.

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